New Jobs and Skills

speech"New Jobs and Skills: which Employment Pathways for Europe?"        
by Anna Dalosi

“New Jobs and Skills: which Employment Pathways for Europe?” was a conference held in the University of Cyprus on 28 September 2012 by the European Commission's Directorate General for Research & Innovation and the University of Cyprus in the framework of the Cyprus Presidency of the EU Council.

Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Christopher Pissarides welcomed the emphasis the European Commission gives in Green Economy, Health Services and Information Communication Technologies while at the same time challenged it. He stated that although we could expect improvement in productivity in these areas, we could not expect them to fill the employment gap. Green jobs and ICT will not increase net job creation significantly because ICT sector is too small and green jobs are competing "dirty" jobs (meaning mainly the jobs related to the use of fossil fuels). Green jobs and “dirty” jobs are both important for productivity growth, competitiveness and the environment but the former are not more employment intensive than the later, said Prof. Pissarides.

Prof. Pissarides expressed the opinion that Europe should not only improve in the fields of Technology and Service Provision (two fields in which EU falls behind USA), but also promote employment for young people, women and older employees.

Prof. Pissarides’ recommendations regarding the current employment situation were:

First and foremost, to further liberalise the EU markets; to improve entry conditions for new companies and simplify red tape; to make it easier for employers to choose their workforce and for employees to transit between jobs. Liberalisation can improve prospects of job creation and unleash entrepreneurship. Europeans are good at inventions but not at taking advantage of them through entrepreneurial activity. Germany made enormous progress in this area with the Schröder reforms which could be adopted by other countries as well.

Secondly, to improve skill levels; to adapt school curricula to today’s' economy; to exclude post- school training (at the level of the firm or in colleges) from austerity measures; to continue life-long learning throughout the career.

Prof. Pissarides provided some important insight on the core question: What Skills?

It is essential to provide frontier training in Information Communication Technologies (ICT). These will be the workers who will drive the new wave of innovation. Next, it is essential to promote training in management, finance and accounting in order to provide specialised business services. These jobs will improve European productivity growth and bring about the office revolution. Notwithstanding, we should understand that even in companies like Apple, more than half of the employment is in low skilled jobs (demonstrators, callers, delivery men, security etc) with wages not far from the minimum wage. Out of 45.000 workers in the United States, 30.000 are of the low skill category- only a minority works in ICT.

Prof. Pissarides said that the vast majority of jobs which are expected to be created in health, retail and other service sectors will not require professional skills. It is essential that schools adapt their curricula to this kind of services.

The big questions for Europe in the present technological era according to Prof. Pissarides are:

1.      Can we accept the unfairness which is evident in the United States with the high executive pay and inequality?

2.      Can we accept Nordic levels of taxation in order to have good quality health care- given the fiscal cost?

3.      Who is going to pay for education- given the pressure to keep young people in school longer and train them in the new technologies? Can we accept Nordic levels of taxation in order to support education?

4.      Apparently there are many jobs (in fields such as domestic service, retailing, hotels and restaurants) that require limited skills. How do we deal with cheap immigrant labour who undertakes these jobs? At this point the professor brought the example of Cyprus where unemployment is more than 10% when at the same time there is a 20% of employment low- cost immigrant labour.

In conclusion, prof. Pissarides agreed with the European Commissions’ position on skills and reminded the audience that the hardest choices are yet to come.

Anna Dalosi,

Careers Advisor

Visit the official website of the conference

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